Career

Knowing Your Data

Knowing Your Data

Is it possible to be an effective data professional without knowing anything about the domain of data you support? I remember having a conversation a few years ago with a friend of mine, a fellow data practitioner. In his role as a database administrator, he asserted, he could do his job without knowing anything about the underlying data. His argument…


Solving the Wrong Problem

Trying to Solve the Wrong Problem

Some time back, while pulling into a local coffee shop, I spotted a stranded motorist in the parking lot. Per the Texan code of ethics, I was duty bound to walk over and offer my assistance, and in doing so I discovered that someone else had already stopped to help. The motorist was in the driver’s seat turning the key…


Why Before How

Why Before How

I’ve spent a lot of time browsing and participating in online technical forums. In my early years in the industry I asked a lot of questions, and as my skills grew I evolved to the point where I was answering more questions than I was asking. The questions and answers I encountered were quite varied, but there was one specific…


Side Project

The Side Project

When I first started working as a technologist some 17 years ago, I was doing fairly low-level stuff: moving and reimaging computers, network cabling, and basic desktop support were the extent of my responsibilities. I decided early on that I wanted to move into a more advanced role, but faced a common quandary: I couldn’t get the job I wanted…


It's a Lonely Road

Survey: Skipping the Holidays?

For a little pre-holiday fun, I’ve got a simple scenario to present to you, and I am interested in your response. Your holiday plans are made. All of your family and friends expect to see you at the annual holiday gathering. Your kids are expecting you there on Christmas morning as they open presents. You unexpectedly get a call from…


On Being Disruptive

Being disruptive is a powerful way to conduct business. Steve Jobs and Bill Gates insisted that computers belonged not just in business offices but in the homes of regular joes, and built businesses around a need that had not fully manifested itself. Twitter disrupted the social media space by bringing to market a medium for short, frequent, and publicly visible…


Studying Failures

Over the weekend, I went to the local theater to watch Sully, the movie about the US Airways pilot who successfully landed his A320 jet on an icy river after losing both engines shortly after takeoff. I enjoyed the movie for its main story line but also for some of the back story elements that were included that were scarcely…


What if Your Employer Won’t Support Your Career?

I’ve had a lot of luck in my career, especially as it pertains to my work environment. Although I can’t say every technical job I’ve had was all unicorns and bacon, I’ve been very fortunate to have been treated fairly and professionally through most of my employment history. Not only was I treated respectfully, but the last three employers I…


Polishing The Silverware

A few weeks ago I met a couple of my business partners in a moderately upscale restaurant in the Washington, DC area. It was not my typical kind of place – I’m more of a casual dining guy – but I did enjoy the experience and the atmosphere. There wasn’t any one particular thing that made the experience a positive…


Technical Dogma

Humans are creatures of habit, and I suspect that engineering/technical types are even more so. We find something that works and tend to stick with it, sometimes neglecting to occasionally experiment with new tools or methods. The mantra of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” becomes the defense for standing by what we know works just fine. There is…